Living Messages

In the place between asleep and awake, my consciousness is still processing the nether-topics I couldn’t face while I was awake. My mind meditates and sends me symbols to interpret the way the world works and my place in it. I always fit into the in-between with observance and acceptance, with bouts of clarity or sometimes confusion. Around 6am, gentility woke me up with very loud words from the very core of my being, “Its time to grow up.” My mind’s response was, “ok. I’m ready.” It was starkly clear and true, present and undebatable.

I later learned that day that a dear friend had passed away at the same time on that very day. She was not the kind of friend I spoke to often. She was not even a friend of the same age, albeit not above 55. She was integral in my adolescence and so many others as well. She was a friend of my family, my youth and my peers. I was not any more special to her than all of the other people with whom she came into contact. I was one of many, yet I very much felt her genuineness, generosity and care as if it was only addressed to me. It was a talent that generally makes great leaders.

I spent the ceremony welling up and trying to keep strange sounds from eeking from my body. It is all a part of being a lady.

I hesitate to state the circumstances of knowing her as to generalize her death. Listing the tangibles that made up her resume makes it feel impersonal, and she did not live her life or nurture her relationships in that way. I dedicate my practice to her, meditate on her kindness, her magnanimity in spirit.

I don’t find comfort in the theology that believes God needed another angel or that he gave her cancer for any reason. Cancer just sucks. She didn’t need to prove herself, her dedication, confess her sins or do that kind of penance. No one needs to. However, she managed it with as much grace as is humanly possible.

Cancer just happens sometimes. and it sucks.

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Good Grief

I saw my neighbor and her dog on Bruno’s walk this morning. We discussed dogs for a while, much like I suspect parents discuss their children. She asked the obligatory, “what do you do again?” I tell her I work in a skilled nursing facility and how it can be sad but also funny at times. She said she imagines it is a dark humor. Humor is important in anything, and I feel that I definitely have a different relationship with death. It is a subject, like race, that is very sensitive to the unfamiliar.

I am reading “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion right now. A perspective on grief, a portrait of relationships and intensely honest experience with death. She speaks about how death has somehow become professional. Death happens in hospitals and nursing homes, everywhere except homes. Didion quotes (of all people) Emily Post. Ms. Post is insightful and gracious, writing during a time when death was present in everyone’s home and family as a part of life. It was relevant. Most readers probably have stopped reading this because they don’t feel it is relevant to them. But Grief is relevant.

Grief from tangible death is something we will all experience, but living grief is perpetual. Whether you are grieving a relationship, an expectation or an innoncence; grief is ever-present. It should be spoken of, instead of avoiding the subject like it is “the-subject-that-must-not-be-named.” That only implies shame and fear. Death should have nothing to do with shame or fear.

Speech And The Five Elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth)

The glottis is the space between the vocal chords. We use the glottis to manipulate sounds and communicate. Space is the primary element where air, fire, water, and earth emerge, operate and interact.

Yoga And The Five Elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth).

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http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/english/frameset.html

Can certain sounds have different effects on your body?

Air Sounds

Air quality is defined within mobility: the ability to move freely, lightly, and effortlessly

  • Vowels: ipa_vowel_chart_2005s
  • Glides: /w/, / j/ as in “yellow”

Fire Sounds

Fire qualities are transformation, suddenness, intensity, radiance, and inspiration

  • Affricates: /t∫/ as in “ch” and /dz/ as in “judge

Water Sounds

Water qualities are softness, fluidity, adaptability, power, and feeling

  • Fricatives: /∫/ as in “sh”, “measure”, /s, z, f, v, th (voiceless and voiced)/
  • Liquids: /r,l/

Earth Sounds

Earth qualities are manifested in stability: the ability to maintain structural integrity under stress

  • Stops: /b, p/, /t, d/, /k, g/
  • Nasals: /m, n/

Breath Inverted

Breathing is the shape change of the body’s cavities. — Leslie Kaminoff and Amy MatthewsYoga Anatomy 2nd Edition

Breath coordination is central to the production of sounds, safety in swallowing and yoga. The topic of breath is far too broad to broach in one sitting, so I will focus on its expiration. Breath is both voluntary and autonomic, meaning it happens without you thinking about it but it can be stopped or started, and manipulated in rhythm and time.

Breath does not solely concern the lungs. Think of the core body in terms of 2 cavities: thoracic and abdominal. As the thoracic cavity expands, the abdominal cavity changes shape and vise versa. According to Yoga Anatomy 2nd edition, the abdominal cavity is like a water-filled balloon; if you squeeze one end, the other bulges in a different direction. The lungs are like an accordion expanding in 3 dimensions (front/back, wide/narrow, and up/down). In yoga, often times you hear instructions to “draw a little more air in to fill the upper chest all the way to the collar bones”, ” fill the belly up with your breath” and “draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure the belly is empty of air.” Essentially, these breathing exercises are designed to change the shape of your abdominal and thoracic cavities. They are contained within the same structure (your body), so changing your body’s position (i.e. laying down, twisting or sitting upright) changes the efficacy of your breath. Breathing techniques are many and can be found in yoga books and but are not often emphasized on many speech sites.

Exhalation is a process of expelling air juxtaposed by the pressure in the lungs trying to return to its original volume. In school, we learn how little of our lung’s volume we actually use in breathing and in speech. In addition, forced exhalation is often inadvertently associated with abdominal contraction. Without thinking about it, the same muscles we use to strain during a bowel movement are used in forced exhalation. With practice and training, we can learn to use different muscle sets for exhalation in order to balance the shape shifting of our system to healthier patterns.

It makes sense to me that one of those ways of balancing the volume change of breath with muscular coordination is inversions. This is where I go on my own in drawing conclusions. The information above is paraphrased from Yoga Anatomy 2nd edition. The ideas below are my own.

If an accordion sits atop a water filled balloon, I picture a heavy accordion on a constantly squished balloon. This insinuates therapeutic interventions beginning with posture changes to lighten the load. The most extreme posture change being handstands, head stands and shoulder stands. Kids do them all the time, somehow channelling their body’s need for pressure change. It is difficult to manipulate the posture of the elderly, especially without assistance by a trained professional (Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist). Obviously, The elderly cannot usually manipulate themselves upside down. But they can lay at different angles supported in different ways (that a trained professional says is ok). The insinuations are endless in releasing tensions of the throat, strengthening of abdominals that can decrease the load of the lungs and in turn creating space in the throat for proper speech and swallowing.

The visual of an accordion and a balloon also helps explain the frequent incidence of Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in the elderly. Poor posture, weak abdominal muscles, and slower digestive system makes the balloon unsustainable.

Throat Therapy

As Speech Pathologists, we are often looking to address difficulties of expression.  Expression is part physical or concrete in the anatomy of the oral, laryngeal, nasal and pharyngeal mechanisms, but it is also very abstract. For example, rapid naming shows us that although a person can say a word physically, the builded pressure of repetition impairs their ability to do what they have already demonstrated they can do.  In therapy, our first inclination is to address a breakdown in communication in a more concrete manner (i.e. oral motor exercises, worksheets) that foster concrete answers (% accuracy). The essence of successful therapy is in self correction and eventual generalization. Generalization in itself is the balance of the physical and cognitive because a patient, a person must be mindful of what they are doing to alter that behavior. Mindfulness is the fulcrum of yoga and it is the basic principle of executive functioning. 

I think a grounded but cerebral look at communication is healthy in doing our job, which is attempting to heal a breakdown that is a marriage of abstract and concrete. Yoga parallels that marriage by stating there must be space in the throat, physically and spiritually, for healing and mindfulness to occur. 

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Sanskrit Name: Vishuddha meaning “to purify”.

This chakra controls the throat and the neck, and the arms and the hands. It is associated with the brachial or cervical plexus.

Element: Ether, as the crossover between the physical world and the world of Spirit. On the physical level, it corresponds to deep space as the most subtle physical element. From the point of view of the Spiritual, it represents the matrix on which physical reality manifests.

  • Color: Bright, light blue
  • Musical Note: A
  • Healing Flower: Morning glory
  • Animal Totems: Hawk, whale, and hummingbird
  • Herb: Frankincense
  • Endocrine Gland: Thyroid Gland
  • Sense: Sense of Hearing

 

Feeding the Chakra

  • Liquids in general: water, fruit juices, herbal teas
  • Tart or tangy fruits: lemons, limes, grapefruit, kiwi
  • Other tree growing fruits: apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, etc.
  • Spices: salt, lemon grass

Gemstones and Flower Essences that stimulate, cleanse and energize the throat chakra

  • Gemstones – Chrysocola, Lapis, Blue Opal
  • Flower Essences – Cosmos, Trumpet Vine, Larch

Healing Exercises:

  • Shoulder stand
  • Singing, chanting

Now, below is a meditation activity I am not suggesting we do in therapy. I do, however, think there is something to be gained by doing open sound repetitions to relax the throat, integrating resonance to help with sensations. In children, an occupational therapist once told me that until the age of 7, they are simply experiencing the world by sensation. They are seeking sensory experiences (touch, sound, smell, taste, sight) and reacting to those sensory experiences. With this reflex in development, repetitions of resonance and open sounds can be enriching to their speech experience. Approaching correction by teaching them that what they are saying is “wrong” can be very damaging. For geriatrics, open sounds and resonance can relax the throat and possibly realign cerebral connections to the speech mechanism through repetition, imitation and chorus. I do not think there have been any studies on this, but I think it would be worth a look…

Throat Meditation
Sit in Easy pose with the hands in gyan mudra (index touching the thumbs). Straighten the spine, drop the shoulders and tuck the chin in slightly to create neck lock.
Chant “Humee Hum Brahm Hum” without using the tip of the tongue at all. Use only the root of the tongue to chant. Chant for 11 minutes.

Guru Dev, Master of Sat Nam Rasayan said that Yogi Bhajan instructed students to chant this in the original class without the tip of the tongue. You only want to chant with the root of the tongue, otherwise do not move the of the tongue at all! This will stimulate the throat and will cause your tongue to get a workout. I have to warn you that you will sound really funny chanting this without the tip of the tongue, but you will experience an amazing effect.

Yogi Bhajan taught this meditation with the recording of Humee Hum from Nirinjan Kaur (Musical Affirmation Vol 2).

– See more at: http://www.spiritvoyage.com/blog/index.php/kundalini-yoga-for-the-throat-chakra/#sthash.T7xTL6Mw.dpuf

Speaking Yogini

I am an Speech Language Pathologist, and a fairly typical speech therapist at that. I am engrossed in details and organization, constantly analyzing communication abilities on and off the clock. Under my  belt, I have 1 year in private practice, 4 years in the schools, 1 year of travel therapy (pediatrics and geriatrics) and 1 1/2 years in geriatrics.  My ear is trained to hear a cough in a crowded dining room, a deviation in tongue placement upon introduction to someone new, vocal intensity, pitch breaks, stumbling to find words, a conversation about missed milestones and when I order a tonic at a crowded establishment, I sometimes finger-spell key words.

I went to school in Boone, NC and have since settled in Asheville, NC.  I have become engrossed in yoga, surrounded by some of the best Yoga teachers in the World (I dare say). I find myself referencing my experience in Speech to the lessons of Yoga, connecting universal teachings to micro and macro details of my profession. In this blog, I want to explore the connections we can make between the two.